these guidelines, the WTO has concluded part of the work programme mandated in the General
Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
Up to now, the most common way
to achieve recognition has been through bilateral agreements. The GATS permits this as a
derogation to its fundamental principle of non-discrimination. There are differences in
education and examination standards, experience requirements, regulatory influence and
various other matters, all of which make implementing recognition on a multilateral basis
extremely difficult. Bilateral negotiations will enable those involved to focus on the key
issues related to their two environments. Once bilateral have been achieved, however, this
can lead to other bilateral agreements, which will ultimately extend mutual recognition
guidelines will also serve as an affective means of facilitating the movement of
accountants across borders, and of avoiding the emergence of new disparities between
recognition regimes around the world.
The text of
the guidelines is attached.
FOR MUTUAL RECOGNITION AGREEMENTS OR ARRANGEMENTS IN THE ACCOUNTANCY SECTOR
Introduction Back to top
provides practical guidance for governments, negotiating entities or other entities
entering into mutual recognition negotiations on accountancy services. These guidelines
are non-binding and are intended to be used by Members on a voluntary basis, and cannot
modify the rights or obligations of the Members of the WTO.
of these guidelines is to make it easier for parties to negotiate recognition agreements
and for third parties to negotiate their accession to such agreements or to negotiate
comparable ones. The most common way to achieve recognition has been through bilateral
agreements. Article VII of the GATS recognises this as permissible. There are
differences in education and examination standards, experience requirements, regulatory
influence and various other matters, all of which make implementing recognition on a
multilateral basis extremely difficult. Bilateral negotiations will enable those involved
to focus on the key issues related to their two environments. Once bilateral agreements
have been achieved, however, this can lead to other bilateral agreements, which will
ultimately extend mutual recognition more broadly.
autonomous recognition is granted, it is suggested that the WTO be informed of the
relevant elements in these guidelines for transparency purposes. Such elements could
include, for example, those covered in sections B.3, B.4(a) and (b), B.5 and B.6.
listed under the various sections of these guidelines are provided by way of illustration.
The listing of these examples is indicative and is intended neither to be exhaustive nor
as an endorsement of the application of such measures by WTO Members.
of negotiations and relevant obligations under the GATS Back
reference to the obligations of WTO Members under Article VII of the GATS, this
section sets out points considered useful in the discharge of these obligations. A copy of
Article VII is annexed to these guidelines.
information supplied to the WTO should include the following:
intent to enter into negotiations;
entities involved in discussions (e.g. governments, national organisations in the
accountancy sector or institutes which have authority - statutory or otherwise - to enter
into such negotiations);
contact point to obtain further information;
of negotiations (specific activity covered);
expected time of the start of negotiations and an indicative date for the expression of
interest by third parties.
of an MRA, the information supplied should include the following:
content of the agreement (if a new agreement);
modifications to the agreement (if an agreement already exists).
Members supplying information under paragraph (1) above, follow-up actions include
conduct of negotiations and the agreement itself comply with the provisions of GATS - in
particular Article VII;
adopt any measures and undertake any action required to ensure the implementation and
monitoring of the agreement, on their own account, and by the competent authorities, or,
in pursuance of Article I of the GATS, encourage adoption of such measures and action
by relevant sub-national authorities and by other organisations;
respond promptly to requests from other WTO Members seeking to enter into MRA
single negotiating entity exists, Members are encouraged to establish one.
and content of agreement Back to top
section sets out various issues that may be addressed in any negotiations and, if so
agreed, included in the final agreement. It includes some basic ideas on what a Member
might require of foreign professionals seeking to take advantage of an MRA.
should identify clearly:
parties to the agreement (for example, governments, national accountancy organisations or
authorities or organisations other than the parties to the agreement, if any, and their
position in relation to the agreement;
status and area of competence of each party to the agreement.
of the MRA should be clearly stated.
should set out clearly:
scope of the agreement in terms of the specific accountancy professions or titles and
professional activities it covers in the territories of the parties;
is entitled to use the professional titles concerned;
the recognition mechanism is based on qualifications, or on the licence obtained in the
country of origin, or some other requirement;
the agreement covers temporary and/or permanent access to the profession concerned.
should clearly specify the conditions to be met for recognition in the territories of each
party and the level of equivalence agreed between the parties. The precise terms of the
agreement will depend on the basis on which the MRA is founded, as discussed above. In
case the requirements of the various sub-central jurisdictions of a party to an MRA are
not identical, the difference should be clearly presented. The agreement should address
the applicability of the recognition granted by one sub-central jurisdiction in the other
sub-central jurisdictions of the party.
If the MRA is
based on recognition of qualifications, then it should, where applicable, state:
minimum level of education required (entry requirements, length of study, subjects
minimum level of experience required (location, length and conditions of practical
training or supervised professional practice prior to licensing, framework of ethical and
passed (esp. examinations of professional competence);
extent to which home country qualifications are recognised in the host country;
qualifications which the parties are prepared to recognise, for instance, by listing
particular diplomas or certificates issued by certain institutions, or by reference to
particular minimum requirements to be certified by the authorities of the country of
origin, including whether the possession of a certain level of qualification would allow
recognition for some activities but not others.
If the MRA is
based on recognition of the licensing or registration decision made by regulators in the
country of origin, it should specify the mechanism by which eligibility for such
recognition may be established.
requirements for recognition in the host state ("compensatory measures")
Where it is
considered necessary to provide for additional requirements, in order to ensure the
quality of the service, the MRA should set out the conditions under which those
requirements may apply, e.g. in case of shortcomings in relation to qualification
requirements in the host country or knowledge of local law, practice, standards and
regulations. This knowledge should be essential for practice in the host jurisdiction or
required because there are differences in the scope of licensed practice.
additional requirements are deemed necessary, the MRA should set out in detail what they
entail (for example, examination, aptitude test, additional practice in the host country
or in the country of origin, practical training, language used for examination).
rules and procedures to be used to monitor and enforce the provisions of the agreement;
mechanisms for dialogue and administrative co-operation between the parties;
means of arbitration for disputes under the MRA.
a guide to the treatment of individual applicants, the MRA should include details on:
focal point of contact in each party for information on all issues relevant to the
application (name and address of competent authorities, licensing formalities, information
on additional requirements which need to be met in the host country etc.);
length of procedures for the processing of applications by the relevant authorities of the
documentation required of applicants and the form in which it should be presented and any
time limits for applications;
of documents and certificates issued in the country of origin in relation to
qualifications and licensing;
procedures of appeal to or review by the relevant authorities;
fees that might be reasonably required.
should also include the following commitments:
requests about the measures will be promptly dealt with;
adequate preparation time will be provided where necessary;
any exams or tests will be arranged with reasonable periodicity;
fees to applicants seeking to take advantage of the terms of the MRA will be in proportion
to the cost to the host country or organisation;
information on any assistance programmes in the host country for practical training, and
any commitments of the host country in that context be supplied.
and other provisions in the host country
MRA should also set out the means by which, and the conditions under which, a licence is
actually obtained following the establishment of eligibility, and what this licence
entails (a licence and its content, membership of a professional body, use of professional
and/or academic titles etc.). Any licensing requirements other than qualifications should
be explained, e.g.:
office address, an establishment requirement or a residency requirement;
of good conduct and financial standing;
with host country's requirements for use of trade/firm names;
with host country ethics (for instance independence and incompatibility).
order to ensure the transparency of the system, the MRA should include the following
details for each party:
relevant laws and regulations to be applied (disciplinary action, financial
responsibility, liability, etc.);
principles of discipline and enforcement of professional standards, including disciplinary
jurisdiction and any consequential limitations on the professionals;
means for ongoing verification of competence;
criteria for and procedures relating to revocation of the registration of professionals;
relating to any nationality and residency requirements needed for the purposes of the MRA.
of the agreement
If the MRA
includes terms under which it can be reviewed or revoked, the details should be clearly
ANNEX Back to top
For the purposes of the fulfilment, in whole or in part, of its standards or criteria for
the authorization, licensing or certification of services suppliers, and subject to the
requirements of paragraph 3, a Member may recognize the education or experience
obtained, requirements met, or licenses or certifications granted in a particular country.
Such recognition, which may be achieved through harmonization or otherwise, may be based
upon an agreement or arrangement with the country concerned or may be accorded
Member that is a party to an agreement or arrangement of the type referred to in
paragraph 1, whether existing or future, shall afford adequate opportunity for other
interested Members to negotiate their accession to such an agreement or arrangement or to
negotiate comparable ones with it. Where a Member accords recognition autonomously, it
shall afford adequate opportunity for any other Member to demonstrate that education,
experience, licenses, or certifications obtained or requirements met in that other
Member's territory should be recognized.
Member shall not accord recognition in a manner which would constitute a means of
discrimination between countries in the application of its standards or criteria for the
authorization, licensing or certification of services suppliers, or a disguised
restriction on trade in services.
12 months from the date on which the WTO Agreement takes effect for it, inform the
Council for Trade in Services of its existing recognition measures and state whether such
measures are based on agreements or arrangements of the type referred to in
inform the Council for Trade in Services as far in advance as possible of the opening of
negotiations on an agreement or arrangement of the type referred to in paragraph 1 in
order to provide adequate opportunity to any other Member to indicate their interest in
participating in the negotiations before they enter a substantive phase;
inform the Council for Trade in Services when it adopts new recognition measures or
significantly modifies existing ones and state whether the measures are based on an
agreement or arrangement of the type referred to in paragraph 1.
appropriate, recognition should be based on multilaterally agreed criteria. In appropriate
cases, Members shall work in cooperation with relevant intergovernmental and
non-governmental organizations towards the establishment and adoption of common
international standards and criteria for recognition and common international standards
for the practice of relevant services trades and professions. Back to top